Green mission statements are exactly what they sound: mission statements that truly characterize your company’s commitment to sustainability, fair practices and the environment.
It’s important for green businesses to have an honest and visible green branding in their messages. This assures current customers and future green consumers of their brand’s ethical and sustainable values. Your mission statement is also a great place to go back to when you’re writing marketing messages and deciding on big-picture solutions.
“Going green and managing waste streams more efficiently does not just mean demonstrating environmental accountability and responsibility; it shows fiscal accountability and responsibility, too,” said Ugur Yozgat in a study published in the journal of Social and Behavioural Sciences.
But writing a mission statement is no doubt difficult, as there’s so many ways to approach it. So where do we begin?
Getting Started: Brainstorming
As with anything else, we have to go back to the drawing board. Gather your team, and discuss what your brand represents. Also consider the actions that your brand is taking (or going to take) to make sure you aren’t just another business capitalizing on the green movement.
Ask everyone the following questions:
Then together, work to craft a statement that avoids jargon. Be to the point, yet make sure it stands out and is engaging. But, more importantly, make sure that mission statement isn’t greenwashing – or exaggerating your greeness. Now, certainly, greenwashing is not always intentional. Some mistakes arise when businesses are unclear about what sustainability entails for them. A resource is to avoid the “Six sins of greenwashing” published by the environmental marketing agency called TerraChoice.
How are Other Businesses Doing It? A Case Study.
Mission statements are often revised and reworked as our society changes and our attitudes towards the environment shifts. There are companies that have really stood out for how they incorporate green messaging into their mission statements (or, parts of their mission/vision statements).
Patagonia: “Our Reason for Being: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Patagonia is a well-recognized eco-friendly brand worth over $1 billion, so evidently something about their green messaging is hitting it off with consumers. Even just looking at this one sentence statement, we get the point immediately. It’s concise, powerful and hopeful.
Allbirds: “We are dedicated to making the most sustainable footwear we can using premium natural materials, designed for the to and fro of everyday life. Our commitment to making better shoes in a better way is fueled by a belief that the shoe industry needs to focus less on flash and more on thoughtfulness.”
Here’s part of the mission statement from Allbirds, a now-valued over $1.4 billion company that began as a startup for comfortable shoes. You’ll notice that they don’t use words like “green” or “eco,” which tend to have associations with a more “liberal” movement. Instead, they use words like sustainable, thoughtfulness, and the phrase “focus less on flash” to attract a wider group of consumers.
Starbucks: “Starbucks™ Shared Planet™ is our commitment to do business in ways that are good for people and the planet.”
Again, no mention of “eco” or even “sustainable.” All it is — “good for people and the planet.” What a simple, one-liner that lets consumers know exactly how Starbucks does business. And if they’re then curious, they can Google what the Shared Planet program is, and see that Starbucks actually is involved in many initiatives to do exactly what it said it would do: treat the people fairly, and treat the planet fairly.
Why Does It Work?
Now that we’ve come up with some ideas for where to begin and we’ve seen what’s work, it’s important to take a look at why they work. As much as brand messaging and navigating the business world builds upon experience, there is an element of fundamental research.
As a current graduate student, I study how people talk about science, the environment and climate change. While certainly there’s a lot of theory that I won’t bore you with, there are also striking parallels in my research and in the field of green marketing.
First, let’s look at the concept of “framing.”
Framing means emphasizing certain aspects of an issue over others. This allows that message to be viewed in a specific, desired way. Green messaging, then, is essentially just “framing” our content and messaging through a “green” lens.
If that sounded a bit vague, it’s because it is. What exactly is a “green” lens?
That’s where my research comes in.
The reason why people respond to green branding and green messaging differently can be broken down into five main factors.
- Their proximity to you. Particularly if you’re starting out as a small business, it’s important to emphasize that you’re local to consumers in your area. People are more likely to feel connected to you and your business, as you share a similar hometown, state, or even geographical region. You’ll be seen as more personal and relatable (see point 3 and 4), and people want to root for and support businesses in their area.
- Their political identity. While this is definitely outside of your control, it’s important to understand that those who are more likely to resonate with your messages tend to lean liberal/left. This is consistent with research on green consumers, who themselves are also likely to be more liberal. Understanding your audience’s likely political affiliations will help you to inform how you craft your message, which may often overlap with issues outside of the environment.
- Your shared values and beliefs. This goes a little deeper than just political affiliation, and it’s probably the most important point. This goes down to what you fundamentally believe is at the core of your business, and you have to make it clear to your audience. If organic products, or fair trade, or vegan living is important to you – emphasize it. If your customers see that you share these same values and beliefs, they see that you are on the same side of the fight to save the environment. That will make it more likely that they’ll support your business.
- Their social network. Hand in hand with point 3 is social networks. We all are influenced by those closest to us — our friends, our family, our mentors and even our neighbors. It’s because we think that they understand us best, and have our best interests in their mind. So by leveraging your own social network, and connecting through personal interactions, your business can become an important point in your customer’s network.
- The emotions at play in your messaging. Now, this is a whole field of research (and probably what I’m writing my thesis on). But to put in simplest terms, people like positivity and encouragement! That means messages that focus on the despair and doom of our environment actually don’t work as well as messages of hope! So inspire — and lead — your customers to a brighter future, both through your words and actions (don’t scare them with the impending doom of climate change, even if kind of is true!)